Designer Vanessa Schindler’s Smile Just Got Wider

Each year, the International Festival of Fashion and Photography at Hyères elebrates the rising stars of fashion design at the incredible Villa Noailles on France’s Côte d’Azur. Renowned among fashion’s big names as a definitive honor, winners of the design competitions go on to play influential roles in the fashion world. This year, Schiaparelli Creative Director Bertrand Guyon chaired the jury, giving the highest honors to a young designer who worked Swarovski crystals into a material of her own making.

Vanessa Schindler, who won both the Grand Prix du Jury and the Public and City of Hyères Award, is not just an innovative designer but also a daring inventor. Her new material—urethane—has the ability to look soft and shiny while fusing fabrics together into a garment. We found a quiet moment amid the hubbub to hear her story.

When I began my Master’s research I was idealistic. I wanted to be able to mold new fabrics and work like a sculptor. My aim was to find a pretty liquid material that I could pour onto fabrics, and so I discovered this polymer. At first it was very instinctive work, trying to mix it with so many different kinds of fabrics. I even invented new tools to be able to draw with this material. Then I realized that I could invent a new vocabulary for garment construction and finishing processes. So this collection questions how we can build a garment more radically, and maybe more abstractly.

The research took me two years to complete, and I made two collections from it. I’m totally fascinated by the idea of studying materials, for every purpose from functionality to ornamental. My aim was to make something really chic with a material that is cheap and industrial.

I come from Bulle, a small city in the French part of Switzerland. My family is not connected to the creative world, but my dad was an auto body repairman and my mother was a hairdresser. So I think they demonstrated their own kind of creativity.

I used the Swarovski crystals in pretty radical ways. My collection is called Urethane Pool—I created little pools in my garments and accessories. I wanted to create the feeling that I had thrown a big crystal into these puddles, so I decided to use huge Swarovski crystals. I’m really happy to have had to chance to use them, because I’m interested in the contrast between crystals and plastic textures.

I’ll be presenting my collection, Urethane Pool, Chapter 2, at Berlin Mercedes Fashion Week in July. I’ll also be showing it this summer at the Première Vision shows in New York and Paris. On top of this, I’ll have the chance to collaborate with Petit Bateau for a limited edition. And, of course, I’ll be making a new collection for the next Hyères Festival, with support from Chanel!

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